Individuals have varying needs for minerals that are dependent, amongst other things, on their lifestyle, age and genetic makeup. Knowledge of exact individual nutritional requirements should lead to better health, increased quality of life and reduced need for expensive medical care. Bioavailability, nutrient-gene interactions and whole-body metabolism all need to be investigated further if we are to progress towards the goal of defining optimal health and nutritional status. The discussion which follows will critically review the latest developments in the area of metabolism for several of the minerals that are essential for human health: Ca, Zn, Cu and Se. Stable-isotope tracers and mathematical modelling are some of the tools being used to facilitate the greater understanding in uptake, utilisation and excretion of these minerals. Stable isotopes, administered in physiological doses, present little or no risk to volunteers and allow metabolic studies to be carried out in vulnerable population groups such as children and pregnant women. Intrinsic labelling of foodstuffs ensures that the tracer and the native mineral will behave similarly once inside the body. Advances in computing power and software dedicated to solving nutritional problems have made it possible for investigators to use mathematical modelling in their experimental work. Mineral metabolism is ideally suited to a form of modelling known as compartmental analysis, which allows rates of mineral transferand sizes of mineral stores to be calculated accurately without the need for invasive sampling of body tissues.